UC Berkeley and NRDC Begin Uber Impact Study


While Uber has been stirring up political conflict, UC Berkeley and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have just announced their plans to study an entirely different facet of the service – its effect on the environment. The nationwide study will assess whether services like Uber and Lyft increase or decrease the number of car trips taken in major cities. Some argue that Uber and Lyft are cheap enough to lure consumers away from greener alternatives such as walking, biking, or taking public transit, but the issue is not that simple. While the companies do serve as an alternative to more sustainable transport, having their services in a city also becomes an alternative to purchasing a car. Many argue that residents of cities where Uber is present don’t feel the same need to invest in a car, as they can easily get home for a few dollars whenever needed. Residents will often use Uber instead of using their own car, but they also walk, bike, and ride public transit more often.

Additionally, newer car services like UberPool and Lyft Line allow consumers to carpool. This reduces the total number of car rides taken, especially when consumers would have otherwise taken a taxi by themselves. These services drive down the environmental impact, and Uber is looking to push this impact down even more. Uber’s newest service, “Destinations,” is currently being tested in the San Francisco Bay area. It allows drivers to input a location they’re already headed in and will notify them if a passenger is looking to go in a similar direction, effectively facilitating carpooling between driver and passenger. The service is specifically targeted at commuters who drive to work alone every day, arguably one of the largest sources of transportation-related emissions. It also capitalizes on people looking to run errands in the same area or visit popular areas of the city. The question is, does Uber encourage carpooling and discourage locals from investing in their own cars enough to counteract the number of riders it’s pulling away from more sustainable options? UC Berkeley and the NRDC intend to find out.

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